How ‘Closed’ Homicide Case Data Can Mislead

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The Baltimore police rate of closed homicides stands at about 49 percent for the year, but that doesn’t mean half of this year’s killings have been solved. About one-quarter of killings this year have resulted in handcuffs and charges against a suspect. The rest of the cases closed are killings that occurred in previous years and for which a suspect was only arrested this year. The total also includes cases where no one was arrested at all, the Baltimore Sun reports.

FBI crime reporting guidelines call for police departments to count all cases “closed” by police in a given year — regardless of the year the killings occurred — in that year’s rate of closed cases. Half of this year’s solved cases are from killings committed in prior years. The clearance rate also include cases “closed by exception.” That’s a term for cases administratively closed when a suspect — who police believe they have enough evidence to charge — dies or is unavailable for other reasons. At least five of this year’s “closed by exception” cases involve suspects who were themselves recent murder victims.


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